Gibbon's History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

1894 words - 8 pages

Despite being an immediate bestseller, shortly after publishing, Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire became unpopular with large groups of the British reading public. The abridged edition consecutively presents the stories behind the Empire’s leadership and course of action. Gibbon revivifies the complex and compelling period of the Romans by detailing the prosperous conditions of the empire, the decline, and the aftermath of the fall. At the same time, Gibbon efficiently scrutinizes the declining virtue of the Roman people. Gibbon made an argument that the intellectual inflexibility of the Roman Empire had declined into “barbarism” and “Christianity,” which ultimately attributed to the fall of the Empire. Many ideas in international politics may have the best foundations for evidence but quickly go out of style. The ideas behind Gibbon’s Decline did just that. Many authors attribute the decline of the Roman Empire to military and economic characteristics rather than virtuous leadership and characteristics. Because Gibbon takes a humanist approach in describing decline, he undermines legitimate factors that modern political scientists would evaluate. Gibbon wrote in a paradigm that has little value for modern political science and as such, is a really bad idea. His idea- the decline of the Roman virtue having consequences beyond structural factors- is, in effect, an idea that should not be used for anything except teaching the definition of virtue and reviewing history. Because of the paradigm going out of style, The Decline would not have survived with merit had it not been for the intriguing anecdotes and tales of the many characters.
The need to investigate all political, social, military and economic factors of a situation is a large part of modern day political science. Focusing on one of the four can contort the facts and lead to a misinterpreted publication on the causation for the collapse of a state. This is exactly what Gibbon did. “Change is inevitable. But, so is continuity.” The nature of military power is about shaping international politics and the weight of material resources. Gibbon’s strict focus on social factors led to his writing the Decline and it becoming a lost paradigm so quickly. The argument should not be solely based on whether or not virtue matters, but on how the characteristics of a leader, coupled with the military and economic prosperity of a state, led to the decline. Gibbon focuses largely on the social themes of barbarism and Christianity, and in doing so, gives a humanist approach as the reason for the end of the Roman Empire instead of analyzing all the pieces.
Gibbon begins his work by idolizing the Empire under Augustus and the subsequent rulers who followed in his footsteps. “The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour... During a happy period (A.D. 98-180) of more than fourscore years, the public administration was...

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